Tag Archives: Obituary

Gene Wilder Has Died At Age 83

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The Associated Press reports that the family of Gene Wilder, star of film favorites such as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, has announced the actor has died at the age of 83.

Wilder was born June 11, 1933 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and studied drama at the University of Iowa and then attended the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. After a lengthy time on the stage, he made his feature film debut in 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in Mel Brooks’ The Producers that same year. He would go on to star in two other high profile Brooks films, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein (for which he was also nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award with Brooks).

Wilder also dabbled in directing, helming four features, including The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, The World’s Greatest Lover, The Woman in Red, and Haunted Honeymoon. He also went on to form an on-screen partnership with fellow comedian Richard Pryor, starring in Silver Streak, Stir Crazy, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Another You together over the course of 15 years.

The actor wrote several books, including his 2005 biography, Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art, but also several novels with his most recent being 2013’s Something to Remember You By. Wilder penned a book titled Gilda’s Disease: Sharing Personal Experiences and a Medical Perspective on Ovarian Cancer, a work in remembrance of his third wide Gilda Radner whom he met filming 1982’s Hanky Panky.

Wilder’s nephew announced the news today that the actor died late Sunday in Stamford, Connecticut from complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

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Thinking of Darwin Cooke Today

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The best way to honor Darwyn Cooke is to do what he did – use your gifts to make the world a better place every day. (Photo credit Joel Meadows)

From DC Comics:

Darwyn Cooke had a vision of the DC Universe that was uniquely his own, yet embraced by everyone. Once you saw his timeless designs and concepts for Batman, Catwoman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern or any other character, you immediately adopted his jubilant interpretation of these heroes as your own and wanted more. His take on the most iconic heroes in the world were breathtakingly direct and elegant, powerful and cool.  His were some of the most beautiful, fun DC superhero images we have ever seen.

“Darwyn Cooke lived life like a character from a Micky Spillane novel, a throwback to a bygone era that was, more than occasionally, reflected in his work,” said DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio. “He was both compassionate and combative, approaching everything he did with a tenaciousness and temerity that is now unheard of in a world afraid to offend. The simplistic brilliance of his art and the natural flow of his storytelling not only elevated but enhanced all projects he touched and his passion and love of comics was reflected in every panel of every page. Working with Darwyn was not without its challenges. There were times we’d spend hours arguing over story then go months without talking, but we always found our way back, drawn together by the common bond and friendship comics creates. This is an industry-wide loss that I feel personally, but the sadness is mitigated in the knowing that the beauty and grace of his art will forever stand the test of time and be a monument to all that is great about comics.”

Darwyn was one of our medium’s true innovators. A gifted artist and master storyteller, Darwyn began his career as a magazine art director and graphic designer.  After answering an ad placed by Warner Bros animator Bruce Timm, Darwyn entered the world of animation, where he contributed to such shows as Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series and Men In Black: The Series.  From there, Darwyn made the leap into print comics, where his character design was never more effective, enduring or entrancing. It was the look and honest simplicity of his characters for which Cooke became famous—as first seen in his breakout work Batman: Ego published over 15 years ago today and then followed up by his popular and critically acclaimed work on Catwoman: Selina’s Big Score and The Spirit.  Even after 15 years, Darwyn’s design for Catwoman is still the one used today in both comics and inspired the look for Catwoman on the hit TV show, Gotham.

An Eisner-award winning artist and accomplished writer, Darwyn has been a much-loved and respected member of the comics community.  He lent his signature retro style to all corners of the DC Universe, from Jonah Hex to Before Watchmen to Vertigo Comic’s The Twilight Children and, of course, his master work, DC: The New Frontier.  His bold, direct style, often compared to the works of Joe Kubert, Alex Toth and Jack Kirby, reflected his down to earth, no nonsense personality.  Darwyn Cooke always claimed that he was a lucky man to have such a wonderful family, friends, and such a wonderful life. He lived that life with the same brilliance and fearlessness that so permeated his work.  And for those of us who knew this one-of-a-kind and genuine soul, we were lucky as well.

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Pop superstar Prince Dies At 57

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Pop superstar Prince, widely acclaimed as one of the most inventive and influential musicians of his era with hits including “Little Red Corvette,” ”Let’s Go Crazy” and “When Doves Cry,” was found dead at his home on Thursday in suburban Minneapolis, according to his publicist. He was 57.

His publicist, Yvette Noel-Schure, told The Associated Press that the music icon died at his home in Chanhassen. No details were immediately released.

The singer, songwriter, arranger and instrumentalist broke through in the late 1970s with the hits “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” and soared over the following decade with such albums as “1999” and “Purple Rain.” The title song from “1999” includes one of the most widely quoted refrains of popular culture: “Tonight I’m gonna party like it’s 1999.”

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The Minneapolis native, born Prince Rogers Nelson, stood just 5 feet, 2 inches tall, and seemed to summon the most original and compelling sounds at will, whether playing guitar in a flamboyant style that openly drew upon Jimi Hendrix, switching his vocals from a nasally scream to an erotic falsetto or turning out album after album of stunningly original material. Among his other notable releases: “Sign O’ the Times,” ”Graffiti Bridge” and “The Black Album.”

He was also fiercely protective of his independence, battling his record company over control of his material and even his name. Prince once wrote “slave” on his face in protest of not owning his work and famously battled and then departed his label, Warner Bros., before returning a few years ago.

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“What’s happening now is the position that I’ve always wanted to be in,” Prince told the AP in 2014. “I was just trying to get here.”

In 2004, Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which hailed him as a musical and social trailblazer.

“He rewrote the rulebook, forging a synthesis of black funk and white rock that served as a blueprint for cutting-edge music in the Eighties,” reads the Hall’s dedication. “Prince made dance music that rocked and rock music that had a bristling, funky backbone. From the beginning, Prince and his music were androgynous, sly, sexy and provocative.”

Rarely lacking in confidence, Price effortlessly absorbed the music of others and made it sound like Prince, whether the James Brown guitar riff on “Kiss” or the Beatle-esque, psychedelic pop of “Raspberry Beret.”

He also proved a source of hits for others, from Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” to Cyndi Lauper’s “When You Were Mine.” He also wrote “Manic Monday” for the Bangles

Prince had been touring and recording right up until his death, releasing four albums in the last 18 months, including two on the Tidal streaming service last year. He performed in Atlanta last week as part of his “Piano and a Microphone” tour, a stripped down show that has featured a mix of his hits like “Purple Rain” or “Little Red Corvette” and some B-sides from his extensive library.

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Prince debuted the intimate format at his Paisley Park studios in January, treating fans to a performance that was personal and was both playful and emotional at times.

The musician had seemed to be shedding his reclusive reputation. He hosted several late-night jam sessions where he serenaded Madonna, celebrated the Minnesota Lynx’s WNBA championship and showcased his latest protege, singer Judith Hill.

Ever surprising, he announced on stage in New York City last month that he was writing his memoir. “The Beautiful Ones” was expected to be released in the fall of 2017 by publishing house Spiegel & Grau. The publishing house has not yet commented on status of book, but a press release about the memoir says: “Prince will take readers on an unconventional and poetic journey through his life and creative work.” It says the book will include stories about Prince’s music and “the family that shaped him and the people, places, and ideas that fired his creative imagination.”

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Yvonne Craig, TV’s Batgirl of The 1960s, Dies At 78

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Yvonne Craig, the sexy actress who originated the role as the high-kicking crime fighter Batgirl on the iconic 1960s ABC series Batman, has died. She was 78.

A former ballerina, Craig died Monday night at her home in Pacific Palisades, her nephew, Christopher Carson, announced. The cause was breast cancer that had metastasized to her liver, he said.

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Craig also was known for playing Marta, an insane green Orion Slave Girl who wanted to kill Captain Kirk (William Shatner), in a 1969, third-season Star Trek episode, “Whom Gods Destroy.”

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Craig joined Batman for its third season and final season (1967-68) as Batgirl/librarian Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Gotham City Police Commissioner Gordon (Neil Hamilton).

Batman producer William Dozier, for whom she had done an unsold sitcom pilot years earlier, called and asked her if she would come in for an interview, she once recalled.

“When I got there, he said, ‘We’re thinking of adding a new character to the Batman series — Batgirl. Would you be interested in doing it?’ I said, ‘Very!’ ”

Craig said they put her character on the show “because they needed someone who could encourage an over-40 male audience and a prepubescent female audience. That’s the real reason why they hired me!”

Craig did all of her own stunts and all of her motorcycle riding on the show. Her leatherette-clad character accessed her sleek Batgirl Cycle from an old, unused elevator that was hidden behind a revolving wall in her apartment and led to the street below.

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On the series, only the Wayne butler Alfred (Alan Napier) knew her secret identity  — not even Batman (Adam West) or Robin (Burt Ward).

Batman was an immediate sensation when it debuted in January 1966 but ran out of steam by the time Craig joined the series for its final 26 episodes.

The dark-haired beauty, a native of Taylorville, Ill., began her theatrical career at age 17 as the youngest member of The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. She traveled the U.S. and was with the troupe for three years when she was discovered by director John Ford’s son Patrick and cast for the lead in the movie The Young Land (1959).

She then starred opposite Elvis Presley in the films It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963) and Kissin’ Cousins (1964). The two dated for a spell.

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Her film résumé also included The Gene Krupa Story (1959), John Sturges’ By Love Possessed (1961), 7 Women From Hell (1961) — with future Joker villain Cesar Romero — Ski Party (1965) and Mars Needs Women (1967).

On television, she appeared on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Fantasy Island, The Six Million Dollar Man, Kojak, Land of the Giants, Mod Squad, The Wild Wild West, Emergency! and many other shows.

Most recently, she provided the voice of Grandma in the 2009 cartoon series Olivia for Nickelodeon, served as executive producer for the documentary feature BIRTH and worked as a real estate broker.

Yvonne and her sister, Meridel, went into the prepaid phone card business at its inception, producing phone cards as fundraisers for many charitable organizations as well as promotional phone cards for the 1995 Paramount film Clueless — starring Alicia Silverstone, who played Batgirl in 1997’s Batman & Robin. They also did Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny cards for Warner Bros. stores, her nephew noted.

In 2000, she wrote a memoir, From Ballet to the Batcave and Beyond.

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In addition to her sister and nephew, survivors include her husband, Kenneth, and another nephew, Todd. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to The Angeles Clinic Foundation.

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Richard Matheson, Author, Screenplay Writer & Science Fiction Legend, Dies At Age 87

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Author Richard Matheson has passed away at the age of 87 at his home in Calabasas, California his family announced in a private Facebook post Monday.

Matheson’s novels include iconic works like I Am Legend, The Incredible Shrinking Man, What Dreams May Come, Hell House and A Stir of Echoes while his short story output has been adapted as everything from episodes of “The Twilight Zone” to the recent big screen sci-fi tale Real Steel. Among his countless contributions to genre storytelling, Matheson penned the original “Star Trek” episode “The Enemy Within” and supplied the screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s early telefilm Duel.

Matheson, who was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2010, inspired many of the major names in science fiction, fantasy and horror writing. The 1995 reprint of “I Am Legend” featured praise from Ray Bradbury, “Psycho” author Robert Bloch, and Stephen King, who called Matheson “the author who influenced me the most as a writer.” King’s 2006 novel, “Cell,” is dedicated to Matheson.

King paid tribute to Matheson his site today:

“We’ve lost one of the giants of the fantasy and horror genres. From The Beardless Warriors, his brilliant (and largely unread) World War II novel, to The Incredible Shrinking Man and all the wonderful Twilight Zone scripts and stories, Matheson fired the imaginations of three generations of writers. Without his I Am Legend, there would have been no Night of The Living Dead; without Night of The Living Dead, there would have been no Walking Dead, 28 Days Later, or World War Z. 

Matheson wrote the script for Steven Spielberg’s extraordinary film, Duel, and created one of the most brain-freezingly frightening haunted
house novels of the 20th century in Hell House. He fired my imagination by placing his horrors not in European castles and Lovecraftian universes, but in American scenes I knew and could relate to. “I want to do that,” I thought. “I must do that.” Matheson showed the way. In addition to that, he was a gentleman who was always willing to give a young writer
a hand up. I will miss his kindness and erudition. He lived a full life, raised a fine family, and gave us unforgettable stories, novels, TV shows, and movies. That’s good. Nevertheless,

I mourn his loss. A uniquely American voice has been silenced.”

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Ray Harryhausen, Stop Motion Animation Pioneer (1920-2013)

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The family of Ray Harryhausen has announced that he has died at the age of 92. Ray Harryhausen is well regarded as a pioneer in the stop-motion animation world, known for creating a technique called Dynamation.

Here’s the statement from his family:

Raymond Frederick Harryhausen
Born: Los Angeles 29th June 1920
Died: London 7th May 2013.

The Harryhausen family regret to announce the death of Ray Harryhausen, Visual Effects pioneer and stop-motion model animator. He was a multi-award winner which includes a special Oscar and BAFTA. Ray’s influence on today’s film makers was enormous, with luminaries; Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, George Lucas, John Landis and the UK’s own Nick Park have cited Harryhausen as being the man whose work inspired their own creations.

Harryhausen’s fascination with animated models began when he first saw Willis O’Brien’s creations in King Kong with his boyhood friend, the author Ray Bradbury in 1933, and he made his first foray into filmmaking in 1935 with home-movies that featured his youthful attempts at model animation. Over the period of the next 46 years, he made some of the genres best known movies – Mighty Joe Young (1949), It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955), 20 Million Miles To Earth (1957), Mysterious Island (1961), One Million Years B.C. (1966), The Valley of Gwangi (1969), three films based on the adventures of Sinbad and Clash of The Titans (1981). He is perhaps best remembered for his extraordinary animation of seven skeletons in Jason and The Argonauts (1963) which took him three months to film.

Harryhausen’s genius was in being able to bring his models alive. Whether they were prehistoric dinosaurs or mythological creatures, in Ray’s hands they were no longer puppets but became instead characters in their own right, just as important as the actors they played against and in most cases even more so.

Today The Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation, a charitable Trust set up by Ray on the 10th April 1986, is devoted to the protection of Ray’s name and body of work as well as archiving, preserving and restoring Ray’s extensive Collection.

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R.I.P. Roger Ebert

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Roger Ebert, 70, who reviewed movies for the Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years and on TV for 31 years, and who was without question the nation’s most prominent and influential film critic, died Thursday in Chicago after a long battle with cancer.

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Only a day before legendary film critic Roger Ebert passed away, he tweeted a final farewell at the Chicago-Sun Times:

“So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies”

Read more HERE.

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R.I.P. Maine Author Rick Hautala

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It is with heavy heart that I post the news that Rick Hautala died earlier this afternoon at age 64 from an apparent heart attack. I’m stunned, as I know all of his fans, friends and family are.

Rick Hautala had more than thirty published books to his credit, including the million copy, international best-seller Nightstone, as well as Twilight Time, Little Brothers, Cold Whisper, Impulse, and The Wildman. He has also published four novels—The White Room, Looking Glass, Unbroken, and Follow—using the pseudonym A. J. Matthews. His more than sixty published short stories have appeared in national and international anthologies and magazines. His short story collection Bedbugs was selected as one of the best horror books of the year in 2003.

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A graduate of the University of Maine in Orono with a Master of Art in English Literature (Renaissance and Medieval Literature), Hautala lived in southern Maine with author Holly Newstein. Combined, they have five sons.

I first met Rick when he was the Manager of Bookland at the Maine Mall and we became immediate friends. We attended NECON in its early days and he even made me a character in one of his books. He allowed me to read his manuscripts and provide him with feedback and when I was studying English at USM, he would do the same for me. We would talk about the weeks events and grab General Tso’s chicken at a local Chinese restaurant. I have since moved away from Maine and our contact became less frequent over the past few years but we would still catch up on the phone or chat via email.

Rick was kind, funny and generous and I am truly sad to hear of his passing. My thoughts go out to Rick’s family during this very sad time.

How To Help Rick Hautala’s Loved Ones:

Rick’s sudden death could not have been more untimely. The life of a freelance writer is often one lived on the fringes of financial ruin, and Rick struggled mightily to stay afloat in recent years. Just within the last couple of months, that struggle became difficult enough that he could not afford to continue paying his life insurance bill, and allowed it to lapse.

To make matters worse, Rick’s social security benefits are not available to his wife, author Holly Newstein Hautala, until three years from now. If you were a fan of Rick’s work, or perhaps an author who he inspired, and you’d like to help the family with his final costs, you can donate directly via PayPal to holly_newstein@hotmail.com.

A celebration of Rick Hautala’s life will take place on Sunday, May 5, 2013, at the American Legion Hall on Dunn Street in Westbrook, Maine, from 3 to 7 PM. All who can make it are cordially invited to come and share their memories and laughter with Rick’s friends and family.

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Tom Hanks Shares A Funny Story At Michael Clarke Duncan’s Memorial Service

Tom Hanks shared a funny story at Michael Clarke Duncan’s memorial service, about the time Duncan joined a gang. Michael Clarke Duncan passed away on 9/3/12 at the age of 54. The two actors appeared in the film, The Green Mile.

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